Dogs and their owners can rejoice at the tail-wagging prospect of a new off-leash park.
Victoria city council, sitting as committee of the whole, has given initial approval to designating Barnard Park a “leash-optional” park, bordering Esquimalt at Barnard Avenue and Esquimalt Road, as a pilot project last week. The new park will be the fifth off-leash dog park in the area, joining Banfield, Victoria West, Songhees-Hillside, and Highrock Parks.
But Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe was adamant the park be designated “leash-optional,” not “off-leash.” She said the distinction is important because for her, having dogs off-leash is a privilege, not a right.
“Not every dog should be off-leash,” she said. “If you’re not a responsible owner, you shouldn’t have your dog off leash, even in a leash-optional area.”
By responsible, she means owners need to pick up after their dogs, train them to come when called and not jump up.
As for untrained puppies, she said the owner is still responsible for how they behave.
“If your puppy is not at that point, it goes to training and keeping a dog on leash until it’s able to do that,” she said. “Puppies are the cutest things, and who doesn’t love a puppy? But there are people who have allergies to dogs, people who have had bad experiences with dogs who don’t want dogs near them.
“I love dogs: I am a big dog lover, but I really believe in responsible ownership and being able to exercise your dog in a leash-optional area is a privilege, not a right.”
Coun. Geoff Young said although there are other off-leash parks close by, having an off-leash park in that area will benefit people with disabilities or who don’t have a car.
“We have to arrive at a balance for people who have dogs and want off-leash areas to be conveniently reached, and people who may not want a park with off-leash dogs: people who are fearful (of dogs), for example.”
The park is expected to be available for off-leash use Sept.1.